On Praying (or Singing) to the Holy Spirit: Part 2

rsz_1augustine_trinity1In my last post I mentioned that we would seek to investigate this idea both theologically and textually.  This post contains the theological investigation.  In this post I mention Frank Garlock.  I only mention his name to demonstrate one thing:  hymns and songs that address the Holy Spirit in prayer or praise have existed in the church for many years (Come Thou Almighty King, Doxology).  Songs from a generation ago (Garlock’s songs) followed suit.  I am simply trying to remove the argument that some have against the “new fangled” hymns that have been written very recently.  Some say they are bad because they address the Holy Spirit directly.  The fact is that many songs past and present contain this feature.  If it is indeed a problem to address the Holy Spirit in prayer, specifically through song, then we must not deal with the present alone, but also with the past.  Let us now move on to the theological investigation.

·         The Spirit is a person

o   He is referred to in personal terms (John 15:26; 16:7-8, 13-14).  He acts as a person would act.  He speaks (I Tim. 4:1), He loves (Rom. 15:30), He teaches (John 14:26), He intercedes (Rom. 8:26).

·         The Spirit is deity

o   He is eternal (Heb. 9:14), He is everywhere present (Psalm 139:7-10), He is omniscient (I Cor. 2:10-11), He taught the apostles “all things” (John 14:26; 16:12-13).  He was involved in creation (Gen. 1:2; Job 33:4; Psalm 104:30). 

o   The Spirit is spoken of in intimate association with both the Father and the Son (Matt. 28:19; John 14:16; I Cor. 12:4-6; 2 Cor. 13:14; I Peter 1:2). 

o   Some passages in the OT that are attributed to Yahweh are applied to the Spirit in the NT (cf. Isa. 6:8; Acts 28:25 and Exo. 16:7; Heb. 3:7-9). 

·         One must be careful to not regard the Spirit as being subordinate within the Godhead or the Spirit would not be God.  Herein, lies the great difficulty when discussing the Triune Godhead.  Each person within the Godhead serves in primary functions, but at the same time all share in the functions.  Eph. 1 demonstrates the role of each person of the Trinity in the work of salvation.  God the Father chose to save sinners.  God the Son realized the salvific choice of God through His atonement.  God the Spirit secures the blood-bought chosen by marking or sealing each believer by means of an empowering ministry which is the down payment of the full promise to come (glorification).  When one says, “God saved me,” he is speaking of all persons of the Trinity.  Although each primary function of the persons is recognized, it must also be affirmed that the entire Godhead is involved in essence with the specific outworking of the particular Person.  If one emphasizes these differences of Persons apart from confirming their unity in essence, many prayers and song would need to be banished from our churches.  “Jesus Saves” (Is it only Jesus that saves?  What about the Father’s choice and the Spirit’s sealing?).  “All to Jesus I surrender…fill me with Thy love and power” (Actually, it is the Spirit that fills and empowers.  One would have to refashion the words as, “All to Jesus I surrender, Father cause the Holy Spirit to fill and empower me.”)  Later in the same song the writer requests “Make me, Savior, wholly thine.”  In this case the prayer was not addressed to the Father, nor was the security and sealing work attributed to the Holy Spirit.  Garlock’s well known song My Life is Thine also errs if one is going to prohibit works of each person from being shared by the entire Godhead.  Garlock writes “Lord Jesus, control my thoughts”, “Lord Jesus, come melt me, mold me, use me now, O cleanse and fill its inmost part.”  “Lord Jesus, it is Thy will I seek.”  Garlock attributes to the Son both the work of the Spirit and the Father.  The Spirit cleanses and fills.  The will is the Father’s will lest we fall into monothelitism.  As for addressing the Father in the Son’s name through the ministry of the Spirit, Garlock’s song-prayer obliterates this model.  In defense of Garlock, it is through the atonement that one is allowed to be cleansed and filled.  In a real way, Christ’s atonement is the catalyst for such requests.  Although Christ as a person has His own will, it is in full agreement with the Father’s will.  Therefore, seeking Christ’s will is in essentially seeking the Father’s will. 

o   The major theological issue is that of having a proper understanding of key theological terms and concepts that have helped us grapple with the Triunity of God.

§  Ontological Trinity – Refers to the three-in-one nature of God apart from the testimony of God’s participation with his creation.  The Trinity in terms of being and essence. 

§  Economic Trinity – The economic Trinity refers to the biblical testimony of God’s participation with his creation, or the “economy of salvation” as Father, Son, and Spirit.

§  One refers to who God is and the other refers to what God has done.  God’s acts in relation to man may require an economic structure concerning subordination and function, but the very being of each Person of the Trinity cannot be said to be subordinate.  God cannot submit to God in essence or He would cease to be God.

o   Once again, it is best to consider both of these ideas when speaking of the Trinity.  Yes, a particular Person of the Trinity may have a primary function economically, but each Person shares in the work of the other ontologically.  Therefore, a prayer to God (generically) must include the Holy Spirit.  Even a prayer directed toward the Father (economically) still addresses the Spirit (ontologically). 

·         Theological reasoning apparently does not seem to prohibit addressing the Spirit in prayer.

In the next post we will consider textual data.

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3 thoughts on “On Praying (or Singing) to the Holy Spirit: Part 2

  1. An interesting series, although I disagree with a number of your conclusions and assumptions. I may post those after your next entry.

    For now, I wanted to simply challenge one statement you made which may be overstated. You wrote, “a particular Person of the Trinity may have a primary function economically, but each Person shares in the work of the other ontologically.” I see your point, but think of this in light of Christ’s death on the cross; the economic realities cannot be minimized, or else one would be espousing the heresy of patripassionism. The ontological realities are of little value when a discussion of the differing roles of each Person of God’s Triunity is in view.

  2. Thank you Ryan,
    We are talking of the Trinity. There is very little wiggle room when navigating the issue. You conceded that you saw my point. Simply that there must be a relationship. I am not seeking to minimize the economic realities, only to affirm the the ontological realities. Affirmation of one does not require the obliteration of the other, hence why we as theologians even use the labels economic and ontological. You say, “ontological realities are of little value when a discussion of the differing roles of each Person of God’s Triunity is in view.” Correct. A discussion of roles is a discussion of the economic Trinity, not ontological realities. All I am trying to highlight, for the sake of this discussion, is that the ontological reality cannot be downplayed either, or we ascribe to subordinationism. As I said, any discussion concerning the Trinity is a tight one. If you overemphasize the economic Trinity, you head toward subordinationism. If I overemphasize the ontological Trinity I will go astray as well. Thanks for the input. As I finish the article, I hope you will see that the issue not emphasizing one over the other, but affirming both which can have an effect on practice. As I try to speak of the exact interrelation of the ontological and economic Trinity, I am sure you will not be satisfied fully with my wording and thoughts. I’ve not been fully satisfied with other’s, and I’m not even satisfied with my own. Perhaps you have thought more deeply than I have on this, and you are fully satisfied with your verbal formulation. I would be interested in hearing it.

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